“Mrs. Rachel Lynde was a red-hot politician and couldn’t have believed that the political rally could be carried through without her, although she was on the opposite side of politics. So she went to town and took her husband – Thomas would be useful in looking after the horse – and Marilla Cuthbert with her.”
— L. M. Montgomery, Ch 18: Anne to the Rescue
By The Lake Of Shining Waters
HSP or a highly sensitive person has become more well known term globally in the past years. Couple years ago when I came to the realization that I myself was a highly sensitive person I started to pay notice to other highly sensitive characters in literature, movies, in pop culture and of course, in real life. Perhaps the most well known highly sensitive person in the world´s literature is Lucy Maud Montgomery´s Anne of Green Gables.
“Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it... Yet.”
For those who do not know Anne of Green Gables, AGG is a book written by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery and the first book was published in 1908. Books take place in the eastern coast of Canada in Prince Edward´s island where author lived most of her life. Anne had adventures in nine books and she is the most popular character of Montgomery´s large amount of written works.
Anne Shirley is a 12-years old orphan girl, who by mistake ends up into Prince Edward´s island where she gets adopted by siblings Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert. Anne is best known from her temper, freckled face and fiery red hair. Anne is talkative, social, sensitive girl who likes to day dream. Quiet and shy Matthew becomes Anne´s kindred spirit. It takes a bit longer for reserved Marilla to understand her. They both become very found of Anne and love her like their own daughter. Anne has deep emotional world. She experiences the joys and sorrows of life with intense passion. This makes her life both very enjoyable and painful at times. In the first book she makes all kinds of things that get frowned upon. She hits Gilbert´s head with a slate when he teases her, accidentally colors her hair green instead of black and gets her best friend drunk from currant wine.
A highly sensitive person has a deep emotional world. Majority of highly sensitive people are introverts and about 30% of all hsp people in the world are extroverts. Anne belongs to this group (and so does the friend of mine who originally introduced me to the term ”highly sensitive person”.
In one interview Megan Follows who played Anne in the 1985 classic mini-tv series described the character of Anne like this:
”Anne is eccentric because she is absolutely open and so therefore in some people´s eyes she is too much. She is too joyous or she is too in despair but there is no barrier she doesn´t filter herself . She doesn´t censor herself”
Famous Anne quotes like ”I am in the depths of despair” or "my life is a graveyard of buried hopes" or ”plum pudding does not heal the aching of the soul” to which Marilla answers ”at least aching of the soul hasn´t hurt your tongue” perfectly describes Anne´s highly sensitive nature and Marilla´s total lack of high sensitivity and her practical nature.
Anne´s best friend is Diana Barry and their friendship is nearly perfect. They rarely argue and Anne worships Diana. In the first book Anne´s longing to find herself family and friends comes through very strongly and between the lines one can read about her broken childhood which has included abusing, bullying, mental and possibly physical violence.
“Dear old world, you are very lovely, and I am glad to be alive in you.”
Being highly sensitive is considered as a genetic trait which passes on within the family. Beside the hsp genes Anne´s sensitivity has been influenced by her traumatic childhood. When she arrives to Green Gables her soul is hungry for love and mainly because of the care and the compassion that she receives from Matthew, Diana and later on from Marilla she thrives and for the first time in her life she becomes happy and whole.
Anne´s best quality is that she has the talent to become friends with anyone. Despite the fact that sometimes she falls into the depths of despair for most of the time Anne is an optimist. She is not perfect and she openly admits it. She can be very unforgiving and hold grudge for a long time. She is very sensitive about her hair. In the books she did not spoke to Gilbert for three years when he teased her about it.
Rich inner world, becoming emotionally attached to places and objects and naming them, creativity, literal talents, romantic nature, imagination and making sudden decisions are all parts of Anne´s character. In the later books she became famous for arraging love affairs of her friends and familiars, because of her strong intuition. Being a highly sensitive person is both a gift and curse. In the books Anne is described to be a person that other people feel safe to open up to because Anne is not someone who judges easily. Instead it is easy for her to empathize to other people´s´s up´s and downs because of her good intuition and imagination.
I read my first Anne-book at the age of nine and ever since then I have pretty much re-read them every single summer. Green Gables is a peaceful place filled with beauty for those who seek it. Analyses about Anne´s sensitive nature were made way before Elaine Aron´s ground breaking book highly sensitive person appeared. For many highly sensitive people Anne Shirley has been a role model for over a century. Despite the fact that Anne is very sensitive Anne is never a victim. On the contrary Anne is never ashamed of herself or her sensitivity and she never hides her emotions. She is proudly her authentic self. Story of Anne is a somewhat a Cinderella-story. Girl who were given the lowest starting points on life conquers the hearts of everyone in Green Gables and beyond. She becomes a friend, teacher, writer, wife and a mother.
Reading Anne-books as a child is different than reading Anne-books as an adult. Now the world of Anne feels slightly darker. Especially after reading all nine books in chronological order where Anne grows from a 12 year old to an old woman. I was not surprised when some years ago I heard that the true cause of death of Lucy Maud Montgomery was a suicide and not a heart disease. Maud had a talent to describe the world through eyes of a child. Many of her heroes like Anne, Jane Victoria and Emily of the New Moon have very rich inner worlds, like Maud herself who I believe was also highly sensitive.
“It's delightful when your imaginations come true, isn't it?
I was a very shy as a child and I was always afraid to be judged by others. I admired Anne because she was so outspoken and did not care what other people thougth of her. I wish I would have been that brave in the same age but maybe it took a character like Anne to shape my personality to that direction. I did have friends as a child but I often felt as an outsider because of my highly sensitive nature. Term highly sensitive person did not exist yet in the Finland of the early 90´s economic depression so Anne became my kindred spirit though she only existed in the pages of a book.
When I was in elementary school I loved Sullivan Entertainments 1985 Anne of Greengables miniseries and it´s sequel Anne of Avonlea (the triquel, I like to pretend it did not happen). Series is pretty loyal to the books and it shows Anne´s highly sensitive nature. I tried to keep an open mind when I started to watch Netflix Anne with an E. One thing that I did absolutely love about it was that Anne´s emotional world was shown even more deeper than before (the scene where she is playing the spirit of the "snow queen" cherry tree, I was sobbing my eyes out). My biggest problem with Anne with an E was the the over-dramatizing (which to be fair, is the modern tv- trend) When in the books Anne is open and optimistic in Anne with an E she is often rude, mean and cynical (I do hope that this changes as the series progresses) and other people start to appreciate her just after she saves a child, town from the fire or performs some other great act. These constant validations definitely made me cringe a bit.
Despite the fact that high sensitivity is a scientifically proven pesonal trait (which also exists among animals) it is still a tabu among some people and not all highly sensitive people are not nearly as open about it as I am. It is very easy for highly sensitive person to become a target of bullying and abuse which can lead into depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. In Finland (and in all Scandinavian countries) there is a great amoung of higly sensitive people (apparently more than anywhere else in the world) but for a long time within Finnish culture being sensitive was more approached as a fault than as a virtue (especially among men.) Many times highly sensitive people end up working in the creative industries. Some of the most well-known highly sensitive people are Steven Spielberg and Winona Ryder. Still a highly sensitive person often faces discrimination because of their highly sensitive nature. This is why we need characters like Anne. She is a positive role model for all highly sensitive people. She is smart, outspoken, unpologetic and at the same time the most loving and caring person. For Anne being a highly sensitive person is the asset that carries her through life.
Artist, illustrator, writer and a folklorist. Gryffinclaw. Comes from Finland. Likes cats, tea and period dramas.
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